Snakewood | Uses, Pros and Cons

What is Snakewood?

Snakewood is known as one of the most expensive woods in the world. It is prized for its unique appearance, durability and rot resistance. Snakewood is native to the coastal regions of northeastern South America.

Snakewood got its name “Snakewood” because wood’s pattern is like a snake’s skin. 

Scientific nameBrosimum guianense
Tree Size60–80 ft (19–25 m) tall, 6–12 in (15–30 cm) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight75.7 lbs/ft3 (1,210 kg/m3)
Janka Hardness3,800 lbf (16,900 N)
Crushing Strength17,260 lbf/in2 (119 MPa)
Elastic Modulus3,364,000 lbf/in2 (23.2 GPa)
Rot-resistantResistant to rot and insects

Snakewood Uses

Generally, Snakewood is used for making decorative items. But apart from this, Snakewood is also used for other applications, as follows.

Musical Instruments: Snakewood is a popular choice for making musical instruments, such as fingerboards and violins, violas, cellos, and guitars.

Wooden Items: Snakewood is used to make luxury items, such as jewelry boxes, pens, and knife handles.

Snakewood is expensive and not easily available everywhere, so it is not recommended for making furniture.


Snakewood ranges from dark reddish-brown to light golden brown with black patches in some places. Snakewood has stripes like the skin of a snake, which makes it completely different from other woods.

The wood also has a natural luster that gives it a rich, warm appearance. Its grain is straight with an even texture.

Like other woods, Snakewood also changes color over time. It turns reddish brown when it is exposed to UV light or air. Its natural color can be preserved by proper sealing or finishing.

Working with Snakewood

Snakewood is not easy to work with because of its high density. Due to its hardness, it creates a blunting effect on the cutter. Snakewood is so dense that it can dull cutting tools quickly, so use sharp tools while working on it.

The biggest problem with working with snakewood is that it is quite brittle and can easily splinter while working. Working with snake wood requires patience; it is more complex than other woods. It can be difficult to finish for a beginner. Once properly finished, it gives a smooth and shiny appearance.


Snakewood has a Janka hardness rating of 3,800 lb and an average dried weight of 75.7 lbs/ft (1,210 kg/m).  Here is the Janka hardness of a few popular wood species with Snakewood to give you an idea of how hard Snakewood is.

Wood SpeciesJanka Hardness
Purpleheart2,520 lbf (11,190 N)
Jatoba2,690 lbf (11,950 N)
Bloodwood2,900 lbf (12,900 N)
Mun ebony (Vietnamese ebony)3,000 lbf (13,350 N)
Pau Santo3,280 lbf (14,590 N)
Snakewood3,800 lbf (16,900 N)
Lignum vitae4,390 lbf (19,510 N)


Yes, Snakewood is naturally durable and rot-resistant hardwood. It contains natural oils that make it resistant to decay and insect attack. 

These natural oils are complex chemical compounds. Due to this natural oil, the surface of the wood appears oily. Oiled wood surface keeps moisture away. 

Snakewood Pros and Cons

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of snake wood that you should know before using it.


  1. Extreme Durable: Snakewood is very durable, making it naturally resistant to rot and insect attack. It requires low maintenance and care as compared to other woods.
  2. Beautiful Appearance: Snakewood is known for its snake-like appearance and dark reddish-brown color, which make it a popular choice for decorative woodwork and luxury items.
  3. High Stability: Snakewood has a low shrinkage rate and high stability, which means that it is less likely to warp or twist over time.


  1. High Cost: Snakewood is a rare and exotic wood, which makes it very expensive. It is many times more costly than other hardwoods.
  2. Hard to work with: Snakewood’s density and heavy weight make it difficult to work with. Working with Snakewood takes more resources and time than other hardwoods.

Is Snakewood a Good Wood?

Yes, Snakewood is a good species of wood. It is very durable, stable, and rot-resistant that can be used for exterior and interior purposes. 

But we have to know that Snakewood is not good for everything. It also has its limits and uses. Snakewood is considered an excellent choice for decorative items. 

Is Snakewood Good for Cutting Boards?

Snakewood can be used for cutting boards, but many woodworkers believe it dulls the edge of knives because of its hardness. The surface of Snakewood is oily, so people do not like to use it as a cutting board.

Also, Snakewood is prone to cracking over time. So hard maple, soft maple, and walnut are better for cutting boards than Snakewoods.

Is Snakewood Good For Firewood?

Snakewood is not commonly used as firewood, but it can be burned as firewood. However, it is generally not recommended to burn due to its high value and rarity.

Snakewood is a slow-growing tree that can take decades to mature and is highly prized for its unique appearance and durability. Using snakewood as firewood would be a waste of a valuable resource.

How Much Does Snakewood Cost? 

Snakewood is one of the most expensive and rare hardwoods in the world. The price of Snakewood depends on factors such as its quality, size, availability, market demand and location. Usually, Snakewood costs about $150 to $200 per board foot

If you plan to buy Snakewood, buy from a reputable supplier. Ensure you get the best quality wood at the most affordable prices. Many suppliers offer good discounts for buying in bulk. 

Is Snakewood Poisonous? 

Snakewood is not poisonous, but it is allergic. Some common reactions noticed while working with Snakewood include eye, skin, and respiratory irritants. So take necessary precautions while working with Snakewood.

Is Snakewood a Hardwood or Softwood?

Snakewood is hardwood. Hardwoods are generally denser and harder than softwoods, and they come from deciduous trees, such as oak, maple, and walnut.